Wednesday, July 09, 2014

10 Things I Wish the Public Knew About Eating Disorders

Dr. Ed Tyson, a medical doctor who specializes in treating eating disorders in Austin, Texas, recently wrote an article, entitled, "Ten Things I Wish Physicians Would Know About Eating Disorders."

Inspired by this piece, I've compiled my own list of ten things I wish the public knew about eating disorders:

1) Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. You cannot guess if someone has eating disorder by looking at him/her. This goes for body type, race, gender, etc. (Side note: Someone who's average weight or heavy could have a restrictive eating disorder - and not the binge/compulsive/emotional eating disorder you might think - don't assume behaviors based on size.)

2) An eating disorder is not a desirable condition of glamour or restraint. It is a mental illness in which a disorder takes control of a person's thoughts, emotions, behaviors - and life.

3) Eating disorders are not about vanity or simply the internalization of society's thin ideal. Yes, our culture's thin ideal can play a big part in triggering an eating disorder (which is why I fight so hard against it), but there are other factors (genetic and constitutional) that increase susceptibility to eating disorders. The thin ideal also plays an unfortunate backdrop for eating disorder recovery - another reason I work so hard to challenge it.

4) There are other ways to purge (in bulimia nervosa) outside of vomiting. Some patients abuse laxatives, diuretics, enemas, or engage in excessive exercise - and some compensate for binges by significantly restricting their food outside of the binges - all can constitute bulimia.

5) There are evidence-based treatment approaches for eating disorders. These are treatment modalities that have been proven effective in research studies. Such treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy, family- based treatment, and dialectical behavior therapy. Seek out providers who practice evidence-based treatment.

6) Along these lines, seek out providers who are licensed professionals and who have experience and expertise in eating disorders. Life coaches, health coaches, personal trainers, etc. are not equipped to deal with serious psychiatric disorders.

7) Diets, including juicing, cleansing, and other plans, are not recommended for the treatment of eating disorders. Cutting out specific foods or food groups is contraindicated for eating disorder recovery. Same goes for 12-step programs that prescribe diets or similarly limit food intake.

8) School practices, such as BMI reporting and class weight-loss or calorie-counting assignments, can trigger pathology in those who are susceptible.

9) Disordered eating can be painful and self-destructive, even if it never shifts into a full-blown disorder. Let's take disordered eating and other eating disorders (besides the most talked about) seriously.

10) It is possible to recover from an eating disorder. The sooner someone gets treatment, the better the chances at full recovery. Recovery, though, is not linear, nor something to perfect. It might be a long and windy road, and life can happen along the way.

You can find Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight on Amazon (as a paperback and Kindle) and at


Leora Fulvio said...

Yes! I love this article, especially number 2. I have heard people say "I wish I were anorexic," way too many times or, "I don't have the discipline to be anorexic..." as if it is something to aspire to rather than a jail that some are trapped in.

Jenny Noble said...

I think everyone should read your post. There are so many misguided thoughts about eating disorders, and it can be quite harmful to those who suffer from one. Like you said, the faster those who suffer from eating disorders can receive treatment the better. Eating disorders are dangerous, and should not be taken lightly.

Jenny Noble |

Jessie Vera said...

Thank you for sharing this about eating disorders. I wish the public knew about these things as well. I have had friends with eating disorders who do not look like they would be. I have learned a lot over the years about eating disorders and I hope others learn more as well.

Jessie |

Margaretta Cloutier said...

These are things about eating disorders that many people do not know. I, for one, had no idea it was classified as a mental illness. If society did not set such high standards of an "ideal" figure, then the amount eating disorders might decrease. There are so many different forms of eating disorders many people, including myself, had no idea existed. The amount of professionals out there to assist people with eating disorders, is really impressive.

Margaretta Cloutier @ Aspire Wellness Center